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Chita, Rita, and Louisa

Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Celebration of Louise Nadeau"

by Dean Speer

June 7, 2009 -- Seattle, Washington

Many words were used in tribute to describe Pacific Northwest Ballet’s retiring senior ballerina, Louise Nadeau: wonderful, a study in contrasts, witty, dedicated, accomplished, gifted, gorgeous, bewitching. In trolling through what I’ve written about her over the years, I must add a “wonderful je ne sais quois.” However, the best tribute came from the subject herself through her dancing and in the excerpts from some of her favorite ballets.

Audacious was also one of those terms used to describe Nadeau and this was so marvelously fitting in that, during her farewell show, she premiered in two roles new to her – the singing and dancing part of Anita in ‘America’ from Robbins’ “West Side Story Suite” and in a lovely 1976 pas de deux to the fourth movement of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony, “Urlicht”, which was sung by Mezzo-Soprano Melissa Plagemann.

Both Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno have to look out, as “Louisa” clearly made her mark, singing strongly and strutting her stuff in this comedic scene where the girls tease Rosalia about her longing to return to San Juan. To me, she had the most fun in this part, which she was supposed to have done earlier in the season but could not due to an injury. Of course, her dancing was top notch.

William Forsythe’s “Urlicht” was notable not only because, I believe, this may have been its U.S. premiere (certainly it was the Northwest premiere), but also for showing off Nadeau’s beautiful line, her strength, sense of timing, and for deploying her longtime partnership with a dear colleague, Olivier Wevers. It was probably the bravest of her evening’s outings, as it’s a white leotard and tights piece – no hiding here; neither in costume nor in the demands of the sculptural choreography. I would heavily lobby for PNB to add this excellent duet to its permanent stable, if at all possible. I know future audiences would find it a treat, too.

Balanchine’s Gothic “La Valse” is another role closely associated with Nadeau’s career. Her first appearance of the evening was in its pas de deux with another favorite partner, Jeffrey Stanton. This showed her flair for the dramatic – her ability to fit inside the “skin”of a character.

The last piece she graced us with was the complete fourth act of Kent Stowell’s “Swan Lake.” Here, the corps and demi-soloists were totally in sync as an ensemble; really quite wonderful and totally perfect. Really.

A radiant “Serenade” opened the proceedings with a notable corps and with Carla Körbes making light sauté attitudes and piqué arabesques with great elevation and ballon to Maria Chapman’s quick sauté arabesque fouettées and sharp, strong finishes in fourth position.

Mara Vinson was picture perfect in Nadeau’s “Emeralds” ‘port de bras’ solo role, who had been coached earlier this Winter by its creator, the sublime Violette Verdy.

Who would have thought of petite Kaori Nakamura and tall Batkhurel Bold together for the third pas de deux from Robbins’ “In the Night” but it worked very well. They were hot, hot, hot. When Nakamura kneels before him and supplicates with hands turning over and up, who could not be deeply moved?

While I had to miss Miranda Weese’s official last performance earlier that afternoon during their last repertory show of the season due to traveling from Portland to Seattle to catch Nadeau’s tribute, I was very pleased to see what was probably her truly last gift to her audiences as the Sleepwalker in Balanchine’s “La Sonnambula,” paired with Lucien Postlewaite as the doomed poet. Both brought the right mix of pathos, play, and perplexity to this small nugget. The ballet is loosely based on the opera “Lucia di Lammermoor”, in which the mad bride stabs her husband on their wedding night. The poet encounters the mad bride/wife while she is sleepwalking and after trying to engage her in a variety of ways–playful, trying to stop her, etc., realizes that she is asleep. Another part closely associated with Nadeau’s career and nicely danced by this pair.

Lastly, like so many who stood and cheered and cheered and cheered at curtain’s end, we have to say “Thank you!” to Louise for giving so selflessly of herself to her artistic discipline over the course of her long career. We are the richer for it and wish her every success in all aspects of her new life.

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